Meet 9-YO Charvi Anilkumar, the highest-rated female chess prodigy (under 11) in the world

Charvi, who hails from Bengaluru, made headlines in 2022 after she became the World Champion in U-8 category.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Jan 10, 2024 | 11:00 AMUpdatedJan 10, 2024 | 11:00 AM

Charvi Anilkumar. (Supplied)

At an age when most of her peers are immersed in acquiring diverse life skills, India’s chess sensation, Charvi Anilkumar, is rapidly garnering international acclaim.

Hailing from Bengaluru, the nine-year-old prodigy clinched the title of World Champion in the Under-8 category at the 2022 World Cadets Chess Championship in Georgia, solidifying her status as the highest-rated player globally for any girl born in or after 2013.

Latest FIDE ratings of the girls aged 11 and younger. (Supplied)

Latest FIDE ratings of the girls aged 11 and younger. (Supplied)

Breaking it down, Charvi stands alone at the top — the only female player under 11 years old to surpass the 1900 ELO mark, a measure devised by physicist and Hungarian-American chess player Arpad Elo, and standardised by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) to determine chess player ratings.

As of January 2024, Charvi boasts a rating of 1915, leading the pack among the top 100 junior girls, according to the FIDE rankings.

Who is Charvi Anilkumar?

Charvi, currently a fourth-grader at Capitol Public School in Hegde Nagar, Bengaluru, travels to Chennai for training under RB Ramesh, who also mentors R Praggnanandhaa and other budding chess prodigies.

Following her triumph as the World Cadet Champion in October 2022, Charvi continued her winning streak, securing five gold medals and one silver in the Under-8 category at the Asian Youth Chess Championship in Bali, Indonesia. Her stellar performances earned her the title of Woman Candidate Master (WCM) from FIDE.

Charvi Anilkumar with the Asian Youth Chess Championship trophy.

Charvi Anilkumar with the Asian Youth Chess Championship trophy. (Supplied)

She then clinched her third major chess title at the Commonwealth Youth Chess Championship in Sri Lanka in October 2022.

Charvi, who at the beginning of 2023 had a rating of 1272, tells South First, “I had aimed to reach around 1800 ELO as I felt the need to increase my ratings.” Charvi expressed her next ambition to reach the 2200 or 2300 ELO mark by the end of the year.

“Charvi is a very promising child, especially among girls where we see fewer number of players compared to boys. She plays fearlessly even against International Masters and Grandmasters with a mindset to win on that particular day. She wants to not just compete but win, especially against men,” Mishra Swayams, India’s 62nd Grandmaster, who also trains Charvi, tells South First.

Beyond the chessboard, Charvi finds solace in reading short stories and swimming. “I also do yoga, jogging, and some meditation every morning for one hour,” Charvi says.

Both of Charvi’s parents are software engineers by profession. While her father Anilkumar works in a Bengaluru-based IT company, her mother Akhila left her job last March to provide full-time support to Charvi and accompany her to chess tournaments.

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Shift to open age tourneys

In 2023, Charvi made a strategic move to compete in open category tournaments, facing opponents above her age bracket. “Last year, we took a couple of very strong decisions. We decided to make her play in the open category tournaments where she plays beyond her age category,” Akhila Gowda, Charvi’s mother, tells South First.

The decision was taken so that Charvi could gain more experience. “We made the changes so that she could get more exposure as playing within her age category did not seem enough for us. She got to play against very strong opponents and has shown good progress herself,” Akhila says.

Charvi Anilkumar (left) playing a tournament in 2023

Charvi Anilkumar (left) playing a tournament in 2023. (Supplied)

Notable among her achievements in 2023 was the Chessable Sunway International Chess Festival in Sitges, Spain, where she defeated India’s talented woman FIDE master Sahithi Varshini Moogi in the open age category.

“It was a tight game till the last moment, when both the players were short on time. Sahithi made an error and Charvi immediately capitalised on that. After that, she finished things brilliantly,” Mishra says.

Opining that it was probably one of Charvi’s best games, Mishra adds, “It was not just winning against an opponent with a 2200+ ELO rating, but also about rising clearly and making an impactful performance,” Mishra adds.

Apart from gaining experiences, another major reason Charvi started participating in open age category tournaments was to hike her ELO ratings. “With this exposure, I believe her game quality, game strength, and confidence has taken a major boost,” says a proud Mishra.

Also Read: R Vaishali, India’s 3rd woman GM, is destined for greatness

Road ahead

Moving into 2024, Charvi will be playing her trades in the first edition of the Bangalore International Grandmasters Open Chess Tournament from 18 to 26 January.

“After the Bengaluru tournament, we will shortlist the other tournaments she will take part in. Charvi has been continuously playing tournaments for the past three to four months, so, she needs time for coaching as well,” says Akhila, adding that Charvi has been training every day for two hours.

Charvi Anilkumar in the centre, along with Vietnam's Vo Mail Phuong and Duong Ngoc Nga. (Supplied)

Charvi Anilkumar, centre, along with Vietnam’s Vo Mail Phuong and Duong Ngoc Nga. (Supplied)

Charvi’s favourite format is blitz, which is considered the fastest format in the game, as per the FIDE. Mishra tells us why. “Her calculation ability is excellent and she is extremely fast and great in shorter formats.”

He wants Charvi to improve holistically as a player. “I would like her to be stronger as a player and not just improve ratings or win titles because eventually, that’s what matters the most,” says Mishra.

Akhila is happy with her daughter’s “steady” progress. “She is trying to learn both positional and tactical plays,” says the proud mother.

About how Charvi copes after a loss, she says, “She is still young. We tell her not to cry and try to forget the game, but she still cries for sometime if she suffers a loss. We encourage her to watch comedy shows or movies to help relax herself.”

Telling us more about Charvi, Akhila says, “She likes Social Studies, she likes to know more about the past. Also, she loves dosa. We avoid giving her outside food.”